When you have kids you need a natural solution for stinky shoes. And if you want to make your own stinky shoes smell good again time after time, you’ll probably need more than one home remedy.
I have found that there are different stages of smelly shoes. One thing might work at the beginning but as time goes on I need to find something different to get the same fresh result. Here are some of my own tried and tested remedies for making shoes smell fresh again.
1. Baking Soda
The baking soda helps to absorb moisture as well as making your shoes smell good again.
I do recommend buying your baking soda in a resealable pouch like this one (click for details on quantity and price) so you can easily keep it dry when you’re storing it.
Sprinkle the baking soda into each shoe after you’ve worn them and allow it to sit in there overnight.
Shake it all out before you wear your shoes again. You may end up with some white residue on your socks so if this is a worry for you, try another home remedy for stinky shoes (there are plenty below).
2. Vinegar & Tea Tree Spray
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 8 – 10 drops tea tree oil (melaleuca)
Remember not to use a metal or aluminum bottle when you’re using vinegar because the acid will corrode the bottle.
Stainless steel is okay with vinegar but I prefer to use a glass spray bottle like this one (click to see details on size and price) because you can see how much is in there and the glass doesn’t interact with your essential oil.
3. Bamboo Charcoal
I love using bamboo charcoal to get rid of smells in my house. These products are great for placing in wardrobes, kitchen cupboards as well as in shoes.
For our shoes I buy the bamboo charcoal shoe bags that are specially designed to slide into your shoes. For other purposes I use a different shape of bamboo charcoal bag.
They are so easy to use.
Keep the charcoal bags in the location where you store your shoes (or where you take them off).
Simply slip the charcoal bag into each shoe and leave them in there until you need to wear them again. It couldn’t be easier.
Some of the bamboo charcoal bags come double bagged (although it is less likely with the shoe size bags). They have a thin fabric cover around the charcoal. Then on the outside they have a thicker fabric cover that is usually prettier or more colorful. In my experience they are more effective if you remove the charcoal bag from its outer cover. You don’t need to do this but I do find they work better.
The great thing about bamboo charcoal is that if you find it is losing its effectiveness you can simply place the bag in direct sunlight to “recharge” it.
In my experience these bamboo charcoal bags usually stay effective for about 3 years. After that you can simply open the bag and pour the charcoal into your compost or onto the garden.
4. Baby Powder
Similar to baking soda, baby powder is another really easy powder to use but the difference is that you can use it directly on your feet to prevent the stink before it starts in your shoes.
This is especially useful if you’re wearing shoes without socks (and let’s face it, they’re the stinkiest shoes in summer!)
Simply sprinkle and then rub the baby powder all around each foot before putting on your shoes.
This works really well but it can get a little bit messy so I always do it in the bathroom or somewhere easy to clean up.
Some kids love it but others don’t like the feeling of the powder on their feet. It’s really good for the adults in your family but you’ll need to try it on the kids to know what their preferences are.
I’ve only tried this on feet without socks but I’m guessing you could experiment further. Maybe try it under socks or perhaps even try it on the outside the sock to stop your shoes getting stinky.
To cure stinky shoe smell, if possible, place your shoes outside in direct sunlight. This helps to disinfect the shoe.
Since shoes are usually more stinky in our home during the summer months it is easy to leave shoes outside in the sunlight when they need it.
If your sneakers are stinky, be sure to do the following:
- loosen the laces
- fold back the tongue
- place the shoes in an airy sunny spot
I love using sunlight to freshen up our stinky shoes in summer.
Just be sure to check nothing has crawled into your shoes before you wear them again. And remind your kids about this. One day a small lizard gave my son a big fright as it emerged from his shoe. And he actually really likes lizards! So once he realized what it was he was quite happy about it.
6. Machine Wash
You can run the shoes through a regular machine wash cycle with either regular laundry detergent or with 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar.
If you place a couple towels in the wash with them this helps to stop them banging around too much.
Don’t use a hot cycle, only cold or warm, because you may destroy any adhesives on the shoe if you’re using the hot cycle.
I only do this occasionally with our shoes but when I do they look so much cleaner as well as smelling better. This is the perfect way to improve white canvas shoes after they’re looking rather dirty (and stinky!)
7. Essential Oils
Some people don’t like the tea tree smell so if you prefer eucalyptus or lemon oil I’d try those instead.
You can add 6-8 drops of essential oil to ½ cup of water in a spray bottle to spray onto and into your shoes.
If you’re spraying it inside your shoes, be sure to allow enough time (preferably overnight) to let your shoes dry out before wearing them.
You can even make your own custom essential oil spray for shoes by combining the essential oils listed above. Or try some extra oils like rosemary essential oil or lavender.
Even if you don’t particularly like the scent of one of the essential oils, like tea tree oil, you could use a small amount of it combined with another oil to make a really effective shoe spray.
Another dry powder type of home remedy for stinky shoes is salt. If you sprinkle it in your shoes it will help dry out the shoe and reduce odor.
Leave the salt in each shoe overnight.
Remember to tip the salt out in the morning before putting on your shoes.
I find that the baking soda works better than salt but if you’re looking for a home remedy for stinky shoes in your pantry and you’re out of baking soda, then salt is definitely worth trying.
Similar to baking soda, it’s worth getting a resealable bag of salt so you can keep it dry while storing it. And using ground salt helps get it into all the nooks and crannies in your shoes. The larger sea salt crystals can be used but don’t seem to absorb as much moisture.
9. Newspaper Stuffing
This home remedy is an old one but a good one. If you stuff your shoes with newspaper after wearing them you’ll help to absorb the moisture and stop stinky shoes happening.
I’ve tried it but it’s a bit of a problem with kids shoes. The kids tend to touch the newspaper and get it everywhere. And if they have wet hands they get newsprint on the walls and everything else they touch.
Probably best to try this method on your jogging shoes but use another home remedies for stinky feet and shoes for the kids.
10. Dryer Sheets
Personally I’m never really comfortable with what the ingredients are in dryer sheets but I do admit they can be helpful in getting your shoes smelling fresh again.
If you have dryer sheets handy, try them in your shoes.
However if you want a more natural method of getting rid of stinky shoe smells then be sure to try some of the other ideas above.
By using baking soda or bamboo charcoal you get a natural home remedy which is safe for everyone in your home.
I love natural home remedies but I admit I also use some commercial products in my home. Sometimes it’s just necessary to get the end result without too much fuss. Try dryer sheets if you have them or want a quick fix.
11. Black Tea Bags
After you’re finished with the tea bags, cool them, squeeze out excess moisture and place the tea bags in your shoes overnight.
Once the tea bags have done their job, remove them and allow the shoes to dry out.
Of course, if you don’t want to risk staining white socks with a brown tea color from inside your shoes, don’t use this remedy. Black tea is notorious for leaving a stain.
12. Cat Litter
Clean cat litter can be used to get stinky shoes smelling good again.
Similar to the dryer sheets, I have to hesitate at what ingredients are used to deodorize the cat litter. However, the cat litter will do the trick of absorbing the moisture in shoes and deodorizing the smell. And some brands of cat litter are “all-natural” and hypoallergenic.
Just be aware of the texture of your cat litter. If it is very fine there’s probably no problem. But if the cat litter is a little coarse in texture you’ll need to be super fussy about making sure it is all removed from your shoes before wearing them.
Grainy bits of cat litter do not make for comfortable shoes when they remain inside.
And this is especially important if the shoes belonging to your kids. I know my kids are very fussy about anything getting in their shoes. They will refuse to put them on.
13. Freeze Your Shoes
But if you’re game, place your shoes in a ziplock bag (or each shoe in a separate bag) and then place it in the freezer and leave in overnight.
A 2 gallon ziplock bag is usually a good size for your shoes.
The act of freezing is meant to kill bacteria.
Just remember to leave enough time to defrost your shoes before wearing them. Otherwise you may crack the sole of your shoes while they’re still frozen.
As mentioned at the top of this post, I see different stages of stinkiness in my family’s shoes. I can often start with the bamboo charcoal bags which quick and easy.
But if the shoes get more smelly I move on to the tea tree and vinegar spray or the baking soda.
And beyond that a good clean in the washing machine followed by a spray of essential oil usually does the trick. Obviously you’ll need to see what works for your own family. But with so many natural home remedies for stinky shoes I think you’ll find several that work for you.
It’s also a matter of seeing what is convenient for you.
I firmly believe that if something is too complicated you’ll never get it done. By keeping it simple, you get the end result.
Get the kids involved to help eliminate stinky shoes
Experiment with a few of these methods before you find your favorites. You can also get the kids to help with some of them. Allow your children to smell the essential oils and tell you which one they like. They can help you add the drops of oil to a spray bottle. This is great fun and helps your family to learn about natural ways to solve problems in your home.
You can also explain how there are multiple uses for some products. For example, instead of throwing away old tea bags they can be used for other purposes.
And instead of buying something new you can use the bag of cat litter you already have. By adding a bit to your shoes you can make them fresh again. This is a great way for kids to think about products in a different way.
You can give them a simple science lesson by explaining the properties of the item (like it absorbs moisture) to help them understand why it can be used for something different to what was intended.
This type of involvement with your children helps them to expand their knowledge and learn how to problem-solve.
Good luck with all the stinky shoes in your household and I hope you find that lots of these simple home remedies work for your family.
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